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Types of Educational Research

We discuss three major types of educational research in EdPsych


Descriptive studies attempt to describe things as they currently are. For example, a teacher might observe a student who is not doing well in his class and keep a record of his daily patterns. Another teacher might interview members of her class to find out their interests. A third teacher may survey his class for talents they are willing to share. A final teacher may ask students to use a reading program so that she can understand their current literacy level. Notice the following two important things:

  • None of the teachers in these scenarios change anything in their classroom (they don't use a new technique, for example)
  • None of the teachers in these scenarios are trying to prove that one thing causes another


Correlational studies attempt to identify a relationship between two or more things. For example, a teacher might observe a student who seems to get up a lot to determine if he gets up at the same time, during the same subject, etc., each day. Another teacher might discover that members of her class who take music lessons tend to do better in math. The following two important notes apply here: the teacher is not changing anything and the teacher is not tyring to prove that one thing causes another.


Experimental studies attempt to demonstrate a causal relationship between two or more things. They typically involve two or more groups (control group and experimental group) that are randomly assigned (people are picked at random to be in each group). For example, a teacher may implement a new computerized math program with half of her class and have the other class stick to methods she used before. Then she might use pre- and post-tests to determine if the math program made a difference in achievement. Notice that the teacher in this scenario made a change and is trying to prove causation.

Now, this example is not a true experimental study because it takes place in the classroom and does not have all of the controls that a true experiment would have. However, it's as close as we can get in the classroom. We call this, or any research that is directed by the teacher in the classroom, action research. Notice that there may be ethical issues to consider with action research, such as, "Is it fair for one group to get a type of instruction that may be more effective than another?"


Introduction to Educational Psychology [PPT]

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© 2011 Richard Culatta